Archive for harp

September concert tour of the Midwest!

Posted in Concerts, Programs and repertoire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2012 by armoniaceleste

We are performing “Udite Amanti: Lovers, Beware! Music from the Seventeenth-Century Barberini Court,” our exciting program that has gotten audiences to their feet everywhere we’ve toured it. The concert explores the dangers of love in early baroque Italy, giving listeners a glimpse into a forgotten—yet strangely familiar—world.

In the Rome of the mid-1600s, the patronage of the powerful Barberini family engendered a period of great productivity within vocal chamber music and opera. The trios, duets, and solos—both instrumental and vocal—on this program represent the refinement of style that occurred in the Barberini court. Works of the Roman composers who were heard at this court or who served the Barberini family during the mid-seventeenth century are highlighted, with the music of Rossi, Carissimi, and Cesti (named by Perti in 1688 as “the three greatest lights of our profession”) serving as the centerpiece; other composers of the era such as Frescobaldi, Tenaglia, Marazzoli, and Pasqualini (one of the Barbarini castrati) are also represented.

To complete the historical picture, an exquisitely carved and gilded copy of the famous Barberini harp, made for this prestigious family ca. 1630, will be played for this program.

Further in-depth information on the composers and repertoire in this concert can be found here and here.

Please make sure you come back and say hello after the concert—we’d love to meet you!


Richmond, Indiana
Sunday, September 23, 2012  4:00 PM

Earlham College
Stout Meetinghouse
801 National Road West (US 40)
Richmond, IN 47374

Free admission


Cincinnati, Ohio
Tuesday, September 25, 2012   7:30 PM

Christ Church Cathedral
318 East Fourth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202-4299

$15 general admission; $5 students/seniors; free to children age 12 and under.
Tickets available at the door


Columbus, Ohio
Early Music in Columbus
Friday, September 28, 2012, 8:00 pm
Pre-concert lecture  7:30 pm

Mees Hall
Capital University
1 College and Main
Columbus, OH 43209

Tickets $27 Regular, $22 Seniors (age 62 and over), $12 Students
Buy tickets


Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Academy of Early Music
Saturday, September 29, 2012  8:00 PM
Pre-Concert Lecture at 7:00 PM

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
306 N. Division Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

$20 General/$17 Members and Seniors/$5 Students
Buy tickets


Rochester, Michigan
Sunday, September 30, 2012  7:00 PM

Varner Recital Hall
Oakland University
Rochester, Michigan 48309

Tickets $14 general, $8 students
Buy tickets



Two concerts this weekend in Maryland!

Posted in Concerts, Recordings with tags , , , on June 5, 2012 by armoniaceleste

Armonia Celeste reprises their popular program “Udite Amanti–Lovers, Beware! Music from the 17th-Century Barberini Court” on the Penn Alps concert series in the Western Maryland mountains, and at An Die Musik in Baltimore. The music is a luscious selection from composers active at the Barberini court, which the ensemble recently recorded (expect the CD in late 2012 or early ’13), featuring gorgeous vocal solos, duets, and trios along with toe-tapping instrumental selections. Come see why audiences around the country consistently receive this program with an enthusiastic standing ovation–and be sure to stop by after the concert to meet the ensemble!

Saturday, June 9, 2012 – 7:30 p.m.
Udite Amanti ­– Lovers, Beware!”
Music at Penn Alps, 125 Casselman Rd., Grantsville, MD 21536

Sunday, June 10, 2012 – 5:00 p.m.
Udite Amanti ­– Lovers, Beware!”
An die Musik Live, 409 North Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201

The greatest composer you never heard of

Posted in Programs and repertoire with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2012 by armoniaceleste

The composers of the music for Armonia Celeste are not yet common names among concertgoers. This is unfortunate, as the quality of their music and contributions to the history of music is often enormous. It is especially true of Luigi Rossi, the prime composer for Armonia Celeste’s current concert and forthcoming recording.

Rossi was born in southern Italy in the town of Torremaggiore, and apparently received his early training in Naples under Giovanni de Macque.  However, where he really made his mark was in Rome, where he served several patrons, including Cardinal Antonio Barberini.

Facade of the Barberini Palace

The Barberinis were great patrons of the arts, and Rossi’s first opera, Il Palazzo Incantato (The Enchanted Palace) was written for them in 1642. In 1645, the Baberinis were forced to leave Rome, and relocated temporarily in France under the protection of Jules Mazarin. Under his influence and that of the Barberinis, Rossi produced another opera, Orfeo; though long, this opera has a great deal of wonderful music (and received a fine production at the Boston Early Music Festival in 1997). Rossi returned to Rome for a final time in 1649, and died a few years later in 1653.

Although these two operas were significant, the major part of Rossi’s output was within the realm of the cantata, a repertoire that numbers around 400 pieces. These pieces are composed in a great variety of styles and for various numbers of performers. The greatest share of them is for solo soprano, but there are a number of duets, trios, and quartets, which make the music obvious for the three sopranos of Armonia Celeste.

Earlier in the century, there was a division of styles — the more serious monody madrigals that were first championed by Giulio Caccini, and the more metrical “aria” style, often written in strophic dance forms. Rossi was able to take these styles and combine them within a single piece, giving it greater variety and often length. He was always aware of the text and its needs for a musical interpretation. Where the libretto demanded that the listener understand the story or meaning, he would use the monody or a freer, more reciting style. Where the meaning was lighter or more universal, the more metrical styles took precedence. Rarely do these styles last longer than a minute before the ear is refreshed and the mind becomes interested in different music. Some pieces use strophic variation — that is, the libretto is basically organized in verses. This is the type of piece for which earlier composers would compose music for just the first verse and leave the underlay of the subsequent verses to the performer without changes in the music.  However, Rossi would essentially retain the music for each verse, but would pay attention to the subtle changes and needs of each, writing a few variations as needed. (“Fanciulla son io” on the Armonia Celeste website is one of these strophic variation pieces.)  This close attention to the details of the libretto is one of Rossi’s hallmarks, making the music interesting and intriguing to perform and hear.

Engraving of Cardinal Antonio Barberini, patron of Rossi

As harmony was not yet codifed into strict rules, he would often use harmonies that were quite advanced for the time, with added notes or dissonances foreign to the key or mode — wonderfully intriguing. Of special interest here might be the little chorus from Orfeo,Dormite begl’occhi” (which can also be heard on the Armonia Celeste website), where one finds a “d” added to a c minor chord and several other small but beautiful dissonances.

Another connection with Armonia Celeste was that Rossi’s wife, Costanza da Ponte, was a famous harpist considered to be one of the finest musicians of the time.  The use of harp to perform the continuo accompaniments was certainly a common practice for Rossi’s compositions in his time, and reflected in the performances by Armonia Celeste.

Very little of his music can be found in modern publications, and much of the music for Armonia Celeste comes from transcriptions from the original manuscripts.  As the number of works is so great, we are always finding new and exciting music to perform, a search that will continue for years.

Rossi became quite famous in his time, and there were numerous attestations to his compositional abilities. Perhaps the greatest tribute was by Giovanni Perti, who listed him with Carissimi and Cesti as one of the three “major lights of our profession,” an accolade that we think deserves current recognition as well.


Some background on our repertoire

Posted in Programs and repertoire with tags , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2012 by armoniaceleste

I have often been asked about the repertoire for Armonia Celeste and why we do this relatively unknown literature.  Actually, the answer is quite easy.  It is a fabulous and immense repertoire.  The wealth of material is sometimes almost overwhelming.  There are a number of high-level composers attached to the courts of Italy, especially the Barberini palaces. This includes people like Luigi Rossi, Mario Savioni, Marc’Antonio Pasqualini, Giacomo Carissimi, and Marco Marazzoli.

For example, Marazzoli has 379 cantatas extant, plus a raft of operas and oratorios.  Luigi Rossi has a similar amount, and cantatas from other composers number hundreds more.   These numbers just highlight the secular music.  When one adds in the sacred music by Carissimi, Foggia, and others, the music potentials become vast.  These numbers are basically only in Rome; adding the rest of Europe, the numbers grow even more.

Lutes, baroque guitar, and a small baroque triple harp

This is huge repertoire, but numbers only mean something if they are balanced by the quality of the music.  This is true in this repertoire.  The basic form is the cantata, not the 18th century style of Bach and others, but the emotional, secular style of the 17th century.  There is a large variety of styles and forces with numbers of high quality and interesting pieces.  Though the greatest share of them are for solo voice, primarily soprano, there are a number of duos, trios and even quartets.  This works well for Armonia Celeste.  Our three singers all have quite different and unique types of voices and styles; this allows a better fit to these different styles and ranges.  Mixing and matching these voices and styles into duets and trios makes for a more interesting program as well.

The instrumentalists of Armonia Celeste also add to the variety and match the different styles of composition.  Two of the primary continuo instruments, baroque triple harp and theorbo, are used for the bulk of the continuo realization, but different lutes and guitar can also be called upon when the need arises. The accompaniment of the harp must also have been common.  Marco Marazzoli was known as a harp player, and played the famed Barberini harp (of which our harpist plays a rare modern copy), and Luigi Rossi’s wife was also a virtuoso harpist.  Theorbo and lute players were common throughout Italy.  Kapsberger was even attached to the Barberini courts.

The ensemble of three women singers has a long history in Italy.  It started in the 1570’s with the “Concerto delle Donne” in Ferrara.  This ensemble became so famous that it was imitated in Modena, Florence (under Caccini), and other courts.  Though trios were still performed in the 17th century by women, the castrati also became primary singers.  Several of them were associated with the operas and other music of the courts, and it became natural for them to sing in the princely chambers when opera was not being performed.

This is the basis for the music for Armonia Celeste. Unfortunately, only a small amount of this repertoire is available in modern editions.  We are still combing the many manuscripts and prints of the time to bring some of these jewels to the 21st century.  This is part of the fun, recreating an exciting era of music for our audiences.


Concert next week in Cumberland, Maryland

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 4, 2012 by armoniaceleste

Armonia Celeste appears in Cumberland, Maryland, next week, as Mountainside Baroque presents “Benedicite Dominus” (Bless the Lord), the next concert in its “Before Bach” series. Carissimi’s famous oratorio “Jepthe” will be the concert centerpiece, with tenor Stephen Caldwell, baritone Ryan Mullaney, and bass Les Anders joining the three women’s voices of Armonia Celeste. Additional sacred music from Carissimi and other composers from the 17th-century Roman German College, the most famous musical establishment in Rome at that time, will comprise the rest of the concert.

Painting of the Barberini harp
Viola da gamba, harpsichord, and the instruments of Armonia Celeste (lute, theorbo, and Baroque triple harp) will support the voices in historically informed accompaniment. The harp featured in the concert, with its three sets of parallel strings, is an Italian copy of the famous Roman Barberini harp dating from ca. 1630. One of the largest and most elaborately decorated harps of the 17th century, it was depicted in paintings of the time.

The concert will take place at 4:00 PM on Sunday, January 15, 2012, at the Shrine of SS. Peter and Paul (125 Fayette St.). (Overflow parking in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church parking lot across the street will be allowed for this performance.) Tickets ($10 general/$7 students) will be available at the door. For further information, call 301-338-2940 or e-mail For more information about Armonia Celeste, please visit

Attention Texas peeps!

Posted in Concerts, Recordings with tags , , , on September 9, 2011 by armoniaceleste

Next week (September 15-18) Armonia Celeste is undertaking a concert tour of Texas! The program, “Udite Amanti–Lovers, Beware! Music from the Courts of 17th-Century Rome,” features some rare muscological gems performed with the ensemble’s signature verve.

With a theme charting the perils and folly of the heart, the music for the program comes from composers under the patronage of the powerful Barberini family, or who were heard at the Barberini court during the mid-1600s,  especially Luigi Rossi and Giacomo Carissimi (who in 1688, along with Antonio Cesti, were named by G.A. Perti as “the three greatest lights of our profession”). Other composers on the program include Girolamo Frescobaldi, Antonio Francesco Tenaglia, Marco Marazzoli, and Marc’Antonio Pasqualini (one of the Barbarini castrati).

There is an especial tie-in with the harp in this program. Perhaps the most famous surviving harp from the Baroque era is the Barberini harp (pictured above), which was played by Marazzoli. Costanza de Ponte, the wife of Luigi Rossi, one of the project’s featured composers, was a famous harpist of the time as well. For some of the first instances in centuries, Paula will play their music on her baroque harps during these performances.

Lyle will also provide additional exciting rhythmic continuo on baroque guitar, on the plangent theorbo, and the charming lute, while the beautiful voices of Sarah, Rebecca, and Dianna will entwine in exquisite harmony above it all, in trios, duets, and solos–lamenting, exulting, and despairing over the ravishments and embattlements of love.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear the ensemble perform this program live near you! Armonia Celeste and this program are currently finalists in the prestigious Naxos/Early Music America recording competition–if AC wins, you will eventually be able to purchase a recording of this program on the Naxos label!


Thursday, September 15,  7:00 pm
Emmanuel Hall, Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church
9800 Preston Road, Dallas, Texas 75230
Suggested donation: $10

Friday, September 16,  7:30 pm
Trinity Presbyterian Church
2200 N. Bell, Denton, Texas 76209
$10 general $7 students

Sunday, September 18, 4:00 pm
Marvin United Methodist Church
300 W. Erwin Street, Tyler, Texas 75702

For more information, please see our website: Please be sure to come and say hello after the concert!

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